“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12).
By definition, ground zero refers to the point on the earth’s surface where an explosion, seismic event, or natural disaster makes its greatest impact. For those who have embraced the journey of faith and the pursuit of Christ, ground zero is where we find ourselves at any given moment. The armor of light we bear is the Agent of influence wherever our feet may find themselves. Where you go, so goes the light of hope. Shine forth and shake the world around you.
“They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free?’’” (John 8:33).
NEVER BEEN ENSLAVED? What about the 400 years in Egypt? Or the occupation of the Philistines? Assyrian and Babylonian exile? The Roman oppression under which you now reside? Ancestral heritage, cultural elitism, and prejudiced nationalism blinded Jesus’ audience to the state of their depravity and their absence of authentic faith. It’s akin to those who think they are Christian because they were raised in church or born an American. Beware of the Stockholm syndrome and its accompanying alliance with the very thing that holds you captive. The emotional fireworks fueling the shouts of freedom may well obscure one’s vision to the reality of an imprisoned soul.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
In reading the Gospels, one discovers that Jesus reached out to those who were cast aside; he lifted up those who were put down; he gave respectability to the despised; he offered forgiveness to those plagued by guilt; he brought wholeness to broken lives. While favoritism dominates the systems of this world, Christ has leveled the playing field for those who are the body of Christ.
“Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth’” (Job 40: 3-4).
When life tempts us to ask, “Why me?” perhaps we should first consider the question, “Why not me?” What ultimately emerged at the heart of Job’s faith was an acceptance of unexplainable suffering. As sharps and flats are to music, so suffering is to the tuning of our lives. The challenge isn’t to single out individual notes for debate but, rather, to catch the melody of the yet-completed composition.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
Besides controlling one’s own tongue, another positive spin James offers for the word “religion” is to be seen in our attitude and actions toward “the least of these.” Perhaps the remedy for controlling one’s tongue is to focus our attention outward. For the marginalized, powerless outcasts of society, are we seeking to be advocates that their distress might be lessened? “Distress” comes from a word normally associated with the last days. James emphasizes the real needs of today that need to be remedied.
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).
The New Testament normally uses the term “religion” in a negative way (Acts 26:5; Colossians 2:23). James, however, utilizes it to describe the outward expression of faith and worship. No where is true faith more evident than the controlling of one’s own conversation. Engaging in gossip, flattery, innuendo, and sowing seeds of discord among the brethren only deceives the heart and leads one further down the path of worthless religion.
“Then Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed at once” (Matthew 15:28).
If the disciples modeled anything consistently during the ministry of Jesus, it was “little faith.” Thus, Jesus’ acknowledgment of “great faith” captures our attention. Only one other occasion does he describe someone’s faith as great —Matthew 8 and the Roman centurion. It is especially noteworthy that great faith emerged not from individuals raised in “church,” people steeped in religious tradition, but from those of pagan and gentile backgrounds. These people have not yet been blinded by the structures and systems of institutional religion and possess, instead, a single-minded focal point — the person of Jesus Christ.